Tacoma Trd Off Road 4×2 Vs 4×4

So you’re interested in knowing how the Tacoma TRD 4×4 vs the 4×2 goes off-road. This must be one of the most hotly debated topics online and for good reason. There is definitely a case to be made for both variants and the real answer basically boils down to one simple question. What will you be using the truck for?

How does the Tacoma 4×2 compare to the 4×4 when off-road? A 4×2 Tacoma can do many things better than a 4×4 Tacoma, however, off-roading is not one of them. With a 4×2 Taco, you have traction control and an LSD (Limited Slip Diff) on the rear wheels assisting and propelling the Tacoma forward instead of 4 wheels. The minute you hit a cross-axle obstacle where one or more of your wheels become airborne, the 4×2 will struggle eventually getting stuck. With a 4×4, as long as you have 2 wheels on the ground, you can propel yourself out of almost any cross-axle situation.

If you are in the market for a Tacoma and can’t decide if you should opt for the 4×2 or the 4×4, then this article is definitely for you! Making the right choice is crucial, and you want to make an informed decision.

I will say this from the outset, though. And that is all things considered, if you are concerned about off-road capability, then that in itself answers your question on which one you would better suit your needs.

If you think a 4×2 Tacoma can keep up with a 4×4 Tacoma, you should continue reading.

This article will discuss the following:

  1. Sand Driving
  2. Mud & Ruts
  3. Steep inclines and Declines
  4. Towing and Load carrying capacities

Sand Driving 4×2 vs 4×4

In general, sand driving involves two basic rules.

  1. Deflate your tires
  2. Use & maintain momentum

So irrespective of which vehicle you drive or what drivetrain configuration you have, these rules would still apply. Here I would go out on a limb and say the 4×2 Tacoma could probably get quite far on sand if driven correctly and with the right tire pressure.

The 4×2 Tacoma curb weight is about 300lbs lighter than the 4×4 due to having fewer drivetrain components. They still have the same power, which means the 4×2 would have a better power to weight ratio. That is a huge benefit when driving in thick sand. The lighter you are, the easier the vehicle would glide over the loose surface.

So with enough momentum on your side and a rear locker, the 4×2 Tacoma could do a bit of sand or beach driving. Nothing extreme though.

With that being said, the 4×4 Tacoma would be able to climb over steeper sand dunes and drive in thicker, looser sand with ease compared to the 4×2. Again, this is simply because it has all 4 wheels propelling the vehicle forward.

In sandy conditions, I’d say the 4×4 Tacoma wins, but only in really extreme conditions.

Gravel Tracks

Driving on Gravel/grit/Shingle tracks with a 4×2 Tacoma can be done with about the same confidence as the 4×4. Once again, with decreased tire pressure and traction aids, the Tacoma will happily keep things together under these conditions.

Since 2004 the Tacoma has been released with standard Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, and V6 models can now be equipped with Vehicle Stability Control. Four-wheel-drive V6 models come with Active TRAC, a traction control system intended for off-road use, while 4×2 PreRunner models have traction control, plus a limited-slip rear differential”

That will definitely help a lot once you leave the tarmac!

Mud & Ruts 4×2 vs 4×4

Here the 4×2 Tacoma will start to feel out of its depth, with only rear-wheel propulsion to get you through the thick mud. Like any RWD truck, especially unladen, the Tacoma, if pushed too hard, can become susceptible to fish-tailing, and once traction is lost in some thick, sticky mud, that’s pretty much game over for you. There is no Low-range, or locking center diffs to bail you out of this sticky situation.

Always make sure you travel off-road with a buddy or two who can snatch or winch you out of a bogged situation. Alternatively, if you don’t have the option of traveling with mates, at least ensure you have all the essential recovery gear.

What about steep inclines and declines? Let’s see if the 4×2 has any more trump cards left up its sleeve

Steep Inclines and Declines

So when would you encounter any steep inclines or declines? Well, you might be towing a boat and need to hook it up and pull it up the slipway. Have you watched a 4×2 trying to pull a boat out? If you don’t have the traction, you’re not going anywhere buddy!

What about steep inclines and declines when venturing off-road. Again, here the 4×4 will be in its element. The 4×2 can get you up a steep hill if there is traction, for sure. However, in slippery off-camber, off-road conditions, the 4×2 won’t get very far. Even with the LSD (Limited Slip Diff) that won’t be enough when the going gets really tough. You need the assistance of the front wheels to get you up and over.

Towing and Load Capacities

When it comes to towing and carrying heavy loads the 4×2 nudges ahead again, since its curb weight is lower than the 4×4, thus allowing it to carry and tow heavier than the 4×4. The 4×4 has more drivetrain components. Making it heavier and thus decreasing its towing capacity.

The 2019 Toyota Tacoma has a rated towing capacity of up to 6,800 pounds.
It can also haul a payload of up to 1,440 pounds! That’s pretty impressive

The 4×4 Curb weight is 4425 lbs. The 4×2 Curb Weight is only 4095 lbs. That is a weight difference of roughly 330 lbs, which means, off the floor, the 4×2 has a better load carrying and towing ability even though they are both rated to tow a capacity of up to 6800 pounds.

Snow Driving

When driving in any sleek driving conditions like ice and snow, nothing compares to a 4WD. Having all the wheels propel you forward allows for more traction and thus less chance of getting stuck, drifting, or aquaplaning. The added weight of the 4×4 drivetrain makes losing traction slightly harder with a 4×4 vs a 4×2.

The main problem here is when drivers become overconfident since the vehicle feels so sure-footed going forward, they fail to remember that once it’s time to brake, the playing fields immediately become equal to that of a 2WD or 4×2. When stopping, your 4×4 does not assist you in any way. In fact, being a heavier vehicle, the 4×4 will take slightly longer to stop than a 4×2 with a lower curb weight.

Tacoma 4×2 Off Road

Should you take your 4×2 Tacoma off-road? I would say, do so at your own peril. Yes, they can go far, however, they have limitations and those get met very quickly in off-road conditions. If you are wondering about 4×2 off-road capabilities and there’s a chance you might have to venture into the unknown, you will be better off with a 4×4. Rather than have the functionality when you need it, you’ll be surprised how quickly an off-road situation can change.

As all off-roaders say:

4×4 is like an insurance policy, best to have the functionality in the event you might need it, than not.

Tacoma 4×4 Vs 4×2 Fuel Consumption (MPG)

When it comes to gas mileage, don’t believe the hype! The 4×2 is lighter by 2-3 MPG compared to the 4×4. You will hear many 4×4 owners preaching about similar gas mileage to the 4×2, it’s not 100% accurate in all cases.

Also, another factor to consider is insurance. You will pay about 15$-20$ more in some areas for insurance. So with higher fuel consumption and insurance, it all adds up if you plan to keep the truck a while.

Other Factors

There are more factors to consider when making the choice between 4×2 vs 4×4.

Those include but are not limited to:

  1. Initial purchase cost (4×4 is higher)
  2. Resale value (4×4 holds its value better)
  3. Maintenance (4×4 is more expensive)
  4. Serviceable components (4×4 has more)


If you’re planning on venturing off-road with your 4×2 Tacoma, you might need a few recovery backups.

Road Armor Front Stealth Winch Bumper Pre-Runner Round Light Port in Raw Steel (Bare) – 99014Z

Rigid Industries Tacoma Bumper Mount Kit – 465683

TeraFlex Falcon Sport Towith Haul Shock Absorber Leveling System – 08-04-32-400-002

Sand, Mud, Snow Track Ladder

Traction Mats

Recovery Track Mount

48” Hi-Lift Recovery Jack

60” Hi-Lift Recovery Jack

Recovery Kit

Recovery Strap

Off-road Shovel


At the end of the day, it’s horses for courses and everyone has their own reasons for wanting 4×4 or not wanting it. Whatever your initial requirement, you’ll probably find that 90% of the time 4×2 will suffice.

However, as many wheelers say, you don’t need it until you need it. If your requirement is to tow, carry loads, road trips, DIY jobs, commercial tradesman use, by all means, opt for the 4×2. However, if you plan on being a little more adventurous get the 4WD. It’s a no-brainer!

Jade C.

4-Wheel drives and off-road driving techniques has been my passion for over 20 years. Here we strive to provide the most accurate, up-to-date, information about the functionality, common faults and latest technology built into most 4 Wheel Drives.

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